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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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High Carb – Not Fat – Intake Linked To Greater Early Death Risk: Study

A large Canadian study is challenging conventional wisdom that says a low-fat diet is optimal for cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of premature death.

The McMaster University study of more than 135,000 people in 18 countries found that eating a moderate amount of all types of fat is linked to a reduced risk of early mortality compared to the much-touted low-fat diet — while consuming a high-carbohydrate diet is associated with an increased risk of dying early.

“Contrary to popular belief, increased consumption of dietary fats is associated with a lower risk of death,” said lead author Mahshid Dehghan, a nutrition epidemiologist at the Hamilton university’s Population Health and Research Institute.

“Those with a high-fat intake, about 30 per cent of energy intake, had a 23 per cent lower risk of mortality and an 18 per cent lower risk of stroke, compared to the low-intake group, which had 11 per cent energy from fat,” Dehghan said from Barcelona, where she presented the findings Tuesday to the European Society of Cardiology Congress.

“The association with lower mortality was also seen with all major types of fat, by which I mean saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.”

Saturated fat is found in meat and dairy products, while monounsaturated fat is contained in nuts, avocados, and vegetable and olive oils. Polyunsaturated fat is found in walnuts, sunflower and flax seeds, fish, corn, soybean and safflower oils.

Current global guidelines recommend that 50 to 65 per cent of daily calories come from carbohydrates, and less than 10 per cent from saturated fats. But Dehghan said that advice is mostly based on evidence from studies in North America and Europe.

Cardiovascular disease is a global epidemic, with 80 per cent of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries. Diet is a key modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, experts say.

Dehghan said the healthiest diet would be made up of 50 to 55 per cent carbohydrates and 35 per cent total fat, including both saturated and unsaturated types.

“We found no evidence that below 10 per cent of energy from saturated fat is beneficial — and going below seven per cent is even harmful,” she said, adding that a diet containing 10 to 13 per cent of energy from saturated fat was found to be beneficial.

A diet that provides more than 60 per cent of energy from carbohydrates — one common among populations in China and South Asia — was associated with a 28 per cent higher risk of premature death, researchers found.

“The message of our study is moderation as opposed to very low or very high intake in consumption of both fats and carbohydrates.”
“We’re not advocating an extreme diet,” agreed co-author Andrew Mente. “We’re not saying that people should go on a low-carb, very high-fat diet because we didn’t find any benefit with a very low-carb diet either.

“There’s a sweet spot for carbohydrates, which is about 55 per cent of energy intake.”

The PURE (Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology) study was published Tuesday in The Lancet. In a linked commentary in the journal, Drs. Christopher Ramsden and Anthony Domenichiello of the U.S. National Institute on Aging called the research “an impressive undertaking that will contribute to public health for years to come.”
“The relationships between diet, cardiovascular disease and death are topics of major public health importance…. Initial PURE findings challenge conventional diet-disease tenets that are largely based on observational associations in European and North American populations, adding to the uncertainty about what constitutes a healthy diet. This uncertainty is likely to prevail until well-designed randomized controlled trials are done.”

Mente, also a nutrition epidemiologist at the Population Health and Research Institute, was lead author of a second analysis from the PURE study presented Tuesday at the cardiology meeting.

That paper — one of three from PURE published in The Lancet — found that eating three to four servings of fruit, vegetables and legumes per day reduces the risk of premature death.

“And consuming higher amounts, pretty much you have the same level of risk,” Mente said from Barcelona. “There’s no added benefit with consuming more than four servings.
“This is important because existing guidelines recommend that people consume at least five servings per day, which is less affordable in the poorer countries because fruits and vegetables — particularly fruits — are more expensive as a proportion of people’s incomes.”

Lower-income Canadians may also be unable to afford the five to 10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables recommended in the country’s Food Guide.

“So what our study shows is you can achieve maximum benefit through fruits and vegetables and legumes, and it’s also affordable at the same time.”

Mente said the study also showed raw vegetables appear to confer greater health benefits than those that are cooked because of a loss of nutrients from being exposed to heat.

With the federal government in the process of revamping Canada’s Food Guide, the research could be a timely addition to consultations on what Canadians should be eating, Mente suggested.

“We would hope that independent thinkers perhaps reconsider the guidelines and look at our data, and perhaps rather than putting limits on total fat and saturated fat, perhaps we should be putting limits on the amount of carbohydrates that people consume.”

SHERYL UBELACKER     TORONTO    THE CANADIAN PRESS    AUGUST 29, 2017
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Kids Who Skip Breakfast May Miss Key Nutrients

Children who skip breakfast on a regular basis are likely to fall short for the day in getting all their recommended essential nutrients, a UK study suggests.

Kids who skipped breakfast every day were less likely to get enough iron, calcium, iodine and folate when compared to kids who ate breakfast every day, the research team found.

“A greater proportion of those children who ate breakfast met their recommended intakes of these micronutrients compared to breakfast skippers,” coauthors Gerda Pot and Janine Coulthard of Kings College London told Reuters Health in an email interview.

“These findings suggest that eating breakfast could play an important role in ensuring that a child consumes enough of these key micronutrients,” Pot and Coulthard said.

Though older children were more likely to skip breakfast, the day’s nutrient shortfall was greater when younger children missed the morning meal.

“Our research indicated that although lower proportions of 4-to-10-year-olds skipped breakfast regularly compared to 11-to-18-year-olds, greater differences in micronutrient intakes were seen in the younger age group when comparing days on which they ate breakfast with days on which they skipped it. It may, therefore, be particularly important to ensure that this younger age group eats a healthy breakfast, either at home or at a school breakfast club.”

Researchers examined four-day food diaries for almost 1,700 children ages 4 to 18. The information was taken from a yearly national diet and nutrition survey between 2008 and 2012.

Breakfast was defined as consuming more than 100 calories between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Overall, about 31 percent of kids ate breakfast daily, 17 percent never ate breakfast, and the rest ate it some days and skipped it on others. In this group, the researchers also compared differences in nutrient intake by the same child on different days.

The team found that 6.5 percent of kids aged 4 to 10 missed breakfast every day, compared with nearly 27 percent of 11-to-18-year-olds.

Girls were more likely to miss breakfast than boys, and household income tended to be higher for families of children who ate breakfast every day.

More than 30 percent of kids who skipped breakfast did not get enough iron during the day, compared to less than 5 percent of kids who ate breakfast, the researchers report in British Journal of Nutrition.

Around 20 percent of breakfast skippers were low on calcium and iodine, compared to roughly 3 percent of kids who ate breakfast.

About 7 percent of children who skipped breakfast were low in folate, compared to none in the groups that ate breakfast.

Fat intake went up when kids skipped breakfast, researchers found.

Kids who skipped breakfast didn’t seem to compensate by eating more calories later in the day. In fact, kids who didn’t eat breakfast ended up eating the same number or fewer total calories as kids who ate breakfast every day.

Making sure kids eat breakfast appears to be more difficult in the older age group, who are possibly less receptive to parental supervision, Pot and Coulthard said.

“One tactic would be to get children involved in making breakfast, maybe even preparing something the night before if time is short in the morning.”

The authors noted there are a wealth of healthy, simple and tasty recipe ideas available on social media that children can choose from, adding that kids might even like to post a picture of their creations online.

Shereen Lehman      Reuters Health      AUGUST 24, 2017
SOURCE: bit.ly/2wjszk0  British Journal of Nutrition, online August 17, 2017     reuters.com


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Health Canada Considers Sweeping Ban On Junk Food Ads Aimed At Children And Teens

Government is also revising the Canada Food Guide to include foods that should be avoided altogether

The junk food advertising ban for everyone under the age of 17 would cover most cheeses and foods that are high in fat and salt such as chips, frozen waffles, fruit juice and even granola bars.

Health Canada is considering a widespread ban on the marketing of unhealthy food to kids under the age of 17. It could cover everything from TV, online and print advertising to product labelling, in-store displays and even end some sponsorships for sports teams.

The federal government announced the first step in St. John’s this morning by launching public consultations on how foods are marketed to kids in Canada.

“Most of the foods that are marketed to kids are these ones that are high in fat, high in sugar, high in sodium, so that’s what we’re looking at,” said Hasan Hutchinson, director general at Health Canada, who is overseeing the consultations.
“That would then cut out all of the things like, of course, your regular soda, most cookies, cakes, pies, puddings, ice cream, most cheeses because they are high in fat, they’re high in salt,” he said.

Health Canada would also target foods such as sugar-sweetened yogurt, frozen waffles, fruit juice, granola bars and potato chips.

The federal government looked at the Quebec ban on advertising to children, which has been in place since 1980.

In that province, companies can’t market unhealthy food to children under 13 years old. But Health Canada wants to go further, banning marketing to any person under 17.

“We know of course that children under 13 are particularly impressionable. But we feel that evidence is showing that teens [in the] 13- to 17-year-old age group are equally a vulnerable group,” Hutchinson said.

He points to the fact that many young teens have their own income for the first time, and are not as closely supervised by their parents.

Targeting high caffeine drinks

It is an argument Senator Nancy Greene Raine supports.

The Conservative senator introduced a private member’s bill last November that would have banned junk food advertising to children under 13.

But in her first appearance before the Senate committee studying her bill earlier this month, Greene Raine told senators she will be amending her bill to raise the age once it goes for clause-by-clause consideration.

‘Red Bull. Rockstar. These highly caffeinated soft drinks are working on the adolescents…but targetting them is really unhealthy,’
– Nancy Green Raine, Senator

“Some products that are being marketed to teenagers are, in my mind, very harmful. Red Bull. Rockstar. These highly caffeinated soft drinks are working on the adolescents — they like those products. But targeting them is really unhealthy,” Greene Raine said.

And she worries bad food choices made as teenagers lead to bad food choices in adulthood.

“A predilection to choosing foods high in sugar, salt, and fat as teenagers, can result in poor food choices for the rest of their lives,” said Greene Raine. “It’s recognized as one of the precursors to becoming overweight and obese, leading to all kinds of other chronic diseases.”

Sports teams

As part of the consultations, Health Canada is asking the public if the advertising ban should extend to sponsorships of sports teams.

Hutchinson said this is one area he thinks there could be some pushback from parents, who may believe sponsorships are critical for small sports teams to operate.

“They’re advertising because it has an effect. There’s a reason why they’re putting money into those sorts of programs,” Hutchinson said.

Greene Raine said she understands the link between sponsorships and sports — the senator won gold and silver medals for skiing at the 1968 Olympics, later becoming a spokesperson for Mars bars.

Still, Raine believes there should be some kind of limit on sponsorship of sports teams by companies that sell junk food.

“When you see things like: ‘wear your team jersey and come to our fast food outlet and we’ll give you a free slushie,’ that crosses the line,” Raine said.

Revising the Canada Food Guide

Health Canada is also launching a second round of consultations on the revised Canada Food Guide.

There were nearly 20,000 submissions in the first round of consultations in the fall of 2016, including 14,000 from the public.

The guide lists the foods Canadians should use as the foundation of a good diet, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

But for the first time, Health Canada is also listing the foods that should be avoided outright.

“What we’ve done is a special case on avoidance of processed or prepared beverages that are high in sugars, because based on our evidence reviews, we think we’ve got enough evidence to be as strong as that. We’ve never said anything quite that strong,” said Hutchinson.

On the naughty list: soft drinks, fruit-flavoured drinks including water, energy drinks and flavoured milks.

Susan Lunn · CBC News   June 10, 2017
source: www.cbc.ca


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Want to Lose Weight? You Should Stop Counting Calories

No more meal math: Eating high-quality foods—including plenty of fat—is the new golden rule of weight loss.

Keri Rabe, a 41-year-old elementary school librarian in Austin, Texas, used to be a hard-core calorie counter. Each day for a year, she logged everything she ate, squeezing in caloric space for twice-baked potatoes and tater tot casseroles by making them with low-fat dairy, believing fat would make her fat. She studied the menu before eating out at restaurants, choosing a dish by how many calories she had left for the day. “I thought for sure that was the only way to consistently lose weight,” she says. “I thought I’d have to do it for the rest of my life.”

By one measure, it worked; Rabe lost 10 pounds that year. But even though she met her goal, she was frustrated. She hated doing math before and after every meal, and even though she got away with eating low-quality food while losing weight, she still didn’t feel good—and she wasn’t satisfied.

So one day, Rabe stopped logging and went searching for a better path, not just to lose weight but to keep it off. “I was looking for a way I could eat for the rest of my life,” she says.

Rabe was about to learn what experts are now discovering: The quality of calories is what matters most for staying healthy, losing weight, and maintaining those results.

“When you eat the right quality and balance of foods, your body can do the rest on its own,” says David Ludwig, MD, an endocrinologist, researcher, and professor at Harvard Medical School, who wrote the 2016 weight-loss book Always Hungry? “You don’t have to count calories or go by the numbers.”

Outsmart your metabolism

The problem with foods that make people fat isn’t that they have too many calories, says Dr. Ludwig. It’s that they cause a cascade of reactions in the body that promote fat storage and make people overeat. Processed carbohydrates—foods like chips, soda, crackers, and even white rice—digest quickly into sugar and increase levels of the hormone insulin.

“Insulin is like Miracle-Gro for your fat cells,” explains Dr. Ludwig. It directs cells to snap up calories in the blood and store them as fat, leaving the body feeling hungry in a hurry. This is why it’s so easy to devour a big bag of chips and still feel famished.

Repeat this cycle too many times and your metabolism will start working against you. What’s more, “when humans try to reduce their calorie balance, the body fights back,” says Dr. Ludwig. This happens in two ways: Metabolism slows in order to keep calories around longer, and you begin to feel hungrier. “This combination of rising hunger and slowing metabolism is a battle that we’re destined to lose over the long term,” he adds. In a dramatic study last year, researchers followed 14 contestants who had all lost big (most about 100 pounds) on The Biggest Loser, and they found this to be the case. Within six years, all but one of them had regained much or all of the weight they had lost because their metabolism stalled and their levels of the hunger-regulating hormone leptin plummeted.

Put fat back on your plate

The best way to break this fattening cycle is to replace processed carbs with healthy fats, argues Dr. Ludwig: “Fats don’t raise insulin at all, so they can be a key ally for weight loss.”

That idea, of course, contradicts decades of dietary advice. Americans have long been warned about the dangers of fat, since the nutrient contains more than twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins. By the math alone, replacing fat with carbs seems like a good idea—but it’s not. Studies have shown that people on a low-fat diet tend to lose less weight than people on a low-carbohydrate diet.

In another twist, eating healthy fats—the types that actually support the heart, like the omega-3s in tuna and the monounsaturated fat in olive oil—does not seem to cause weight gain. A trial published last year in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology showed that people who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables and fat for five years lost more weight than those who were told to eat low-fat. A related study showed that folks who followed a high-fat diet reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by about 30 percent, while those instructed to eat a low-fat diet did not.

“After hearing for 40 years how eating fat makes you fat and how we have to count calories to control our weight, people are afraid of foods that humans have enjoyed and viewed as healthy for hundreds of years, like olive oil, nuts, avocado, fatty fish, even dark chocolate,” says Dr. Ludwig. “These foods are among the most healthful foods in existence, even though they are loaded with calories.”

Real, natural foods with fiber, protein, and fat are so satisfying, you’ll naturally eat less of them, the new thinking goes. “If the meal contains all three, then the food will move more slowly through the GI tract,” says Mira Ilic, a clinical dietitian at Cleveland Clinic. When a food takes its time passing through the body, you feel fuller longer.

Instead of choosing a meal based on calories, Ilic advises picking foods from all three categories: one high in fiber, like a vegetable or whole grain; a protein source (think: chicken or salmon); and a healthy fat, like a salad with olive oil and chopped avocado.

Listen to your body’s cues

But it’s still possible to overdo it, even on healthy foods. The biggest temptations are typically peanut butter and almond butter—when you eat them by the spoonful—and whole avocados, says Ilic. She likes the “healthy plate” method of foolproof portion control: assembling half a plate of nonstarchy vegetables, which are automatically healthy; a quarter plate of protein; and a quarter plate of quality carbs, like whole grains or legumes. Foods with healthy fats will pop up in the protein and carb parts of the plate, and if you stick to that formula, you’ll be less likely to overeat them. After creating so well-rounded a meal, you’ll find it easier to keep the amount of good fat you add to it in check.

Another way to guard against overeating healthy-but-rich foods is to slow down at the table. “A lot of people are eating way too fast,” says Ilic. “It takes a minimum of 20 minutes for the brain to pick up on satiety, the fullness of the stomach, and you miss the cue of being full if you’re eating too quickly.”

Be present to shed pounds

Recent research found that when people did a short mindfulness exercise called a body scan meditation—in which you take stock of how you feel inside—they were better able to pick up on internal cues that signal hunger and fullness. People who are more mindful have also been shown to experience fewer weight fluctuations over time.

Even though eating quality calories will help you crave treats less, there’s still room for the occasional indulgence. Dr. Ludwig is a fan of dark chocolate, which has heart, brain, and satiety benefits. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can keep the occasional cookie in the mix. “After cleaning the metabolic slate and lowering their insulin, people may be able to enjoy pastries, pasta, etcetera in moderation,” says Dr. Ludwig. If you miss these foods, he recommends experimenting to see what you can handle before cravings are triggered. “For others whose metabolism doesn’t tolerate that as much, the benefits of being in control of hunger and not having to fight cravings will be much greater than the fleeting pleasures of those processed carbohydrates.”

As for Rabe, she ended her year of dodging calories by embarking on a new one in which she embraced fat and reduced sugar. She lost about as much weight while gaining leanness, strength, and a steadier stream of energy.

“I feel so much freer to not be restricted and obsessed over calories,” she says. “I’ve made some really major changes in the quality of my diet, and I feel I can sustain them.”

Best of all, ditching the meal math renewed her love for food, so much so that she started her own cooking blog.

Rabe says she’ll never go back to counting calories. “I’m internally motivated to eat the way I do, because I enjoy it,” she says. “I like the way I feel now.”

 

By Mandy Oaklander             May 26, 2017
 


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Those Burgers Aren’t JUST Making Us Fat—They’re Messing With Our Immune Systems, Too

New research reveals that high-fat diets can impair memory and make our immune systems attack our own bodies.

A junk food diet is clearly not healthy. Burgers widen our waistlines, raise our cholesterol levels and tighten our arteries. But scientists now think that even before it shows up as additional pounds on the scale, junk food is changing our bodies in other, surprising ways. It’s actually a form of malnutrition that could be making our immune systems attack our own bodies.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Immunology, scientists at Australia’s University of New South Wales investigated a typical western diet—one that’s high in saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Specifically, they looked at the diet’s impact on immune cells called T lymphocytes, or T cells.

The researchers fed mice a high-fat diet for nine weeks to see what effect it would have on the T cells before the mice gained weight. The results surprised study leader Abigail Pollock. “Despite our hypothesis that the T cell response and capacity to eliminate invading pathogens would be weakened we actually saw the opposite: the percentage of overactive T cells increased,” she explained.

This might sound great, but having more T cells doesn’t necessarily mean your immune system is stronger. In fact, when the immune system goes into overdrive, it attacks healthy parts of the body, resulting in autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Cell membranes—the bags that hold cells together—are made up of layers of fatty lipid molecules. Looking closely at the T cells, the scientists found that having extra fats in the diet actually changed the amount of lipid molecules in the cell membrane, which in turn, said Pollock, “changes the structure of the cell, altering the responsiveness of the T cells and changing the immune response.”

Altering immunity

The team had shown previously that altering the lipid content of T cell membranes affects how they signal and activate each other, but this is the first time the effect has been shown in a living animal. More research is needed, they say, to figure out exactly what’s happening and determine which fats we could avoid to make sure our immune systems don’t go into overdrive.

Indeed, this is not the first study to show that a high-fat diet impacts the immune system; almost 20 years ago, scientists at the University of Oxford in the U.K. studied rats on diets rich in different fats. They found that the lymphocytes of rats fed a high-fat diet rich in palmitic acid grew more, whereas natural killer cells—another type of immune cell—of rats on a high-fat diet rich in stearic acid grew much less.

More recently, scientists at the University of Ulsan in South Korea compared obese mice on a high-fat diet and non-obese mice on a normal diet, and found that the obese mice had significantly lower levels of immune cells, including T cells, in their lymph nodes, where the immune cells wait until they are needed by the body. The lymph nodes near the intestine were much lighter in the obese mice and contained far fewer T cells than those of the control mice.

The scientists concluded that the accumulation of fat around the organs—visceral fat—due to a high-fat diet causes cells in the lymph nodes to self-destruct: “Dietary fat-induced visceral obesity may be crucial for obesity-related immune dysfunction,” they explained.

A high-fat diet won’t only affect your immune system; it could also impair your memory—and that of your kids. When they fed pregnant mice a diet high in lard, scientists at Capital Medical University in China found that the fat in their offspring’s brain was altered. The authors explain in their study: “Our research demonstrated that long-term high lard diet […] changed the brain fatty acids composition and damaged the memory and learning ability of mice.”

What’s in your burger and fries?

A junk food diet is rich in fat, but there are all sorts of other harmful things lurking in there too. Firstly, junk food is highly palatable—it tastes good. This makes us eat more and more, which is an even bigger problem because it’s also very high in calories. A small cheeseburger is 300 calories, the same as a whole (nutritious) meal. And you would rarely just eat a cheeseburger; adding fries (230 calories) and a soda (170 calories) takes the total to a whopping 700.

An excessive calorie intake leads to obesity, which has an impact on the immune system. Norwegian researchers found that being overweight led to inflammation—a sign of an overactive immune response. They studied this on a molecular level, to establish a link between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke. Their theory is that overeating provides our cells with too much energy and the tiny cellular engines—mitochondria—can stall.

“We believe that long-term stress on the mitochondria may cause metaflammation,” explained Dr. Arne Yndestad of Oslo University Hospital. “A metaflammation is a low-grade chronic inflammation over many years, and unfortunately it’s a condition that’s difficult to detect.”

There’s more. According to World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) we eat on average 8.1 grams of salt a day—about a third more than the recommended 6 grams. Junk food is high in salt; a junk food meal can tip you over the limit of your daily intake.

What’s the problem? Salt is implicated in making our immune systems go haywire. In three separate studies published in Nature, scientists showed that high salt intake increase production of T cells, taking them to harmful levels. One of the studies showed that feeding mice with multiple sclerosis a high salt diet made their disease progress faster.

One of the researchers, Dr. Vijay Kuchroo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, points out that the evidence is not yet definitive, but “is building a very interesting hypothesis [that] salt may be one of the environmental triggers of autoimmunity” and that it’s not yet possible to predict the effect salt has on autoimmunity and the development of diseases like type 1 diabetes.

 

Not-so-happy meals

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a bleak picture for kids too. In 2015, WASH carried out an international study on the salt content of children’s meals, concluding that 8 out of 10 meals had more than 1 gram of salt per serving, tipping the maximum recommended serving per meal.

“The more salt you eat as a child, the more likely you are to have serious health issues in later life,” said Prof. Graham MacGregor, WASH chairman and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London. “This can include high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease. That is why it is vitally important that children do not get used to the taste of salt.”

Unfortunately, our kids might be at a disadvantage from the outset: the gut bacteria they inherit can have an impact on their immune health. Babies get their gut bacteria—their microbiota—from their mothers at birth and this continues to be shaped through breastfeeding. The microbiota is known to have an impact on our immunity; Spanish researchers found that children with type 1 diabetes had different gut bacteria compared to healthy children.

In his review “Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity,” Dr. Ian Myles of the National Institutes of Health gives an overview of what we know about the effects of a western diet on the immune system. The bacteria found in children’s intestines can have a surprisingly big impact, he says. “Our bodies are a kind of mini-ecosystem, and anything that disturbs our bacteria can alter our health in profound ways,” he said in an interview with Time.

They might also be inheriting a genetic preference for unhealthy food. Researchers at Imperial College London have identified a gene linked to cravings for high-calorie foods. They asked 45 people to look at photos of high- and low-calorie foods and rate how appealing they were, and monitored their brain activity. They found that people with a particular genetic change near a gene called FTO who preferred high calorie foods had more activity in parts of the brain linked to pleasure. This, say the researchers, means people with this genetic trait will find it harder to avoid junk food. And if it’s written in our DNA, there’s a chance we can pass it on to our kids.

Even more reason to stop bombarding them with adverts for junk food. Children’s food choices are strongly influenced by advertising, and many countries are already responding by restricting advertising to kids.

Immune-boosting alternatives

Switching off the TV is one way to cut junk food cravings and intake, and therefore protect our immune systems. And the same researchers who found the genetic variants that cause food cravings also found a dietary supplement that can stop those cravings. But there are plenty of other things that can boost our immunity.

The problem with junk food isn’t just the bad ingredients it contains; it’s also the good ingredients it doesn’t contain. You won’t find vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in a fast food meal, but a study by U.K. scientists revealed that these vegetables switch on immune cells in the intestines, which they say explains the link between diet and immunity.

Junk food is also low in fiber, which is known to boost immunity. According to one study, dietary fiber encourages friendly bacteria to grow in the intestine. These lactic acid bacteria can boost immunity, so eating foods that help them grow—like fiber-rich prebiotics, fermented vegetables and raw garlic—could strengthen your immune system.

Immune-boosting antioxidants are also hard to find in your hamburger (unless it’s topped with mushrooms), so eating plenty of sweet potato, elderberry and low-fat yogurt will help.

In his review on fast food fever, Dr. Myles wrote: “While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”

So the next time you’re tempted by a meal deal, consider cooking up some vegetables with chicken and a refreshing yogurt and berry dessert instead. Your immune system—and your memory—will thank you for it.

By Lucy Goodchild Van Hilten / AlterNet September 30, 2016
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten is a freelance writer. Read more of her work at telllucy.com.


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How to Naturally Increase Testosterone in Men

Testosterone is a hormone that is secreted in both men and women. It is responsible for sex drive, as well as protein processing for muscle mass development and strength. Testosterone declines with age, illness and poor nutrition in both genders, though this change may be more marked in men. Synthetic hormone replacement therapy can cause adverse side effects. A natural way to raise the body’s testosterone levels safely include supplementing the diet with specific nutrients and physical exercise.

Step 1

Take a B-complex vitamin supplement that includes folic acid, vitamin B5, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 to increase testosterone production. These nutrients are important in protein and fat metabolism for the manufacture of this hormone. Eat foods that contain these vitamins, including avocados, eggs, fish and wheat germ.

Step 2

Increase the mineral zinc in your diet to raise testosterone levels and sperm production in the body. Take a daily zinc supplement according to the dosage on the label. Eat foods like shellfish, prawns and oysters that are high in this mineral.

Step 3

Take a 500 mg of fish oil once or twice every day, as recommended by your doctor. Fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids and other nutrients which help to decrease sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. SHBG is a protein that captures or binds to testosterone in the blood, lowering availability of the hormone.

Step 4

Get regular strenuous exercise, such as resistance training, weight lifting and endurance running to increase testosterone levels. Decreasing excess body fat helps to decrease estrogen and raise testosterone production in men. As little as 20 minutes of physical activity, four times a week can improve hormone production.

Step 5

Eat foods that increase testosterone production. These include eggs, tomatoes, red peppers, cruciferous vegetables, alfalfa sprouts, apples and pineapples.

Step 6

Reduce saturated fat, sugary and processed foods from your diet. These foods reduce testosterone levels in the body, leading to low libido, loss of muscle mass and other effects.
Warnings

Lower than normal levels of testosterone production may be an indication of a disorder. If levels of this male hormone do not improve with natural methods, a blood test by your doctor can help determine whether there is an underlying cause.

Additionally, fish oil and other supplements may not be beneficial in all cases.

Tips

Ensure that you get adequate restful sleep each night. Sleeping less than the recommended 6 to 8 hours per night increases stress hormones, which lowers testosterone production. Additionally, learn to manage stress levels in healthy ways to naturally increase testosterone. Hormone replacement therapy may be required for some men with low testosterone levels. Consult your physician about treatment options.

NOREEN KASSEM   Aug 16, 2013
 


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Eat Your Way Through the Holidays with Healthy Cancer-Fighting Options

With the many winter holidays upon us, one of the great challenges is maintaining a healthy diet. Choosing healthier options helps many of us ward off extra pounds, but for those with cancer it is crucial to overall health.

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, you need extra nutrients to help maintain your energy and keep you feeling strong. Even if your appetite has waned, you still need to make good food choices that fuel your body and help you heal.

Many traditional holiday foods can be high in unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars which, when eaten in excess, can make you feel fatigued and miss out on nutrients vital for healing

Knowing what to eat and what to avoid can make the holiday season a healthy one for you. Follow the guidelines below to increase your intake of cancer-fighting nutrients, and keep you feeling your best this holiday season.

Fill one-fourth of your plate with complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients because they provide energy for body and brain. Good sources include whole grains (like oats, barley, farro, millet, and buckwheat), fruits, vegetables and beans. They also provide phytonutrients that offer cancer-fighting benefits and fiber to keep you fuller longer. Start by adding extra veggies to side dishes. Switch to whole-grain flour for baking your favorite holiday treats, try a bean dip or hummus with veggies as an appetizer, and include fresh fruits for dessert.

Choose healthy fats. Fat has been given a bad rap, but all fats are not equal. You want to avoid or limit saturated fats (the ones found in animal products like butter, cheese, and red meat) and trans-fatty acids (those that have been hydrogenated — often found in packaged foods and baked goods). Unsaturated fats are the good ones — olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.

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Include protein at every meal. Protein is important for healing during and after treatment. It also is essential for maintaining strength and energy.  Choose a variety of plant sources, such as nuts and nut butters, seeds, beans, legumes, and soy.  Good sources of animal proteins include grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy.

Emphasize “Seasonal” Superfoods. Superfoods are the superheroes of nutrition —many are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help you heal and reduce inflammation, thus reducing your risk of chronic diseases and promoting cancer survivorship. Many superfoods are popular during the holidays — such as cruciferous vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), beans and legumes, citrus, sweet potatoes, nuts and mushrooms. Fresh cranberry sauce with orange and sweetened with agave or honey is an ideal choice to include in your holiday meals. Try adding antioxidant-rich pomegranate seeds to a kale salad for a festive starter, or warm up with pumpkin or butternut squash bisque. Sweet potatoes, baked or mashed, with a drizzle of pure maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, make a healthy and delicious side dish. Green beans sautéed with mushrooms and red bell peppers, steamed broccoli with lemon zest and garlic, and roasted Brussels sprouts caramelized with balsamic vinegar are all foods to fill up on. And if you’ve saved room for dessert, top a scoop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt with blueberries or raspberries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs.  Looking for something decadent? Bake an apple with cinnamon and nutmeg, and top it with chopped almonds or walnuts and maple syrup.

Remember: it is OK to have small portions of your favorite holiday foods, but fill most of your plate with a variety of plant-based foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.

Make a conscious effort to focus on healthy options this holiday season that will keep you strong and help you fight cancer.

Presented by Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
 
 
This post is a sponsored collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Boston magazine’s advertising department.